MAROA — Monticello stormed back from a nine-point third-quarter deficit behind Bryan Phipps’ career-high 17 points — all in the second half — to slide past Central A&M 57-47 and into Saturday night’s Okaw Valley Conference tournament title game for the third straight year.
Next up for the Sages: Meridian, which handed Monticello (18-2) one of its two losses. The Hawks beat St. Teresa 49-48.
Trailing 37-28 near the end of the third, Monticello went on a 25-5 run encompassing most of the fourth quarter to pull away.
“We had some early foul trouble, but we came out with a lot of energy in the fourth quarter, which won the game,” Phipps said.
Isaac Bales (11 points) started the rally, hitting back-to-back threes to cut the Raiders’ lead to three just before the end of the third quarter.
Then Phipps took over.
The senior forward, coming off two knee surgeries that made him miss his junior season, had the best game of his career. He scored nine straight points during Monticello’s run and accounted for the next basket right after his scoring spree, finding Ryan Donohue (13 points) underneath.
“We were a little disappointed in how we played (the first half),” Phipps said. “But we can’t quit. We came out in the second half and played a ton better.”
Unity beat the Sages in the last two title games.
“This is big for us,” Phipps said.